Viewing cable 06VILNIUS946

06VILNIUS9462006-10-13 15:02:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
DE RUEHVL #0946/01 2861502
R 131502Z OCT 06 ZDK
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 000946 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/11/2016 
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Classified By: Pol/Econ Cheif Rebecca Dunham for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d 
¶1. (C) Summary.  Lithuanian activism in support of reform in 
Belarus continues.  In EU structures, Lithuania argues for an 
exception for Belarus to the anticipated 60-euro Schengen 
visa fee, encourages smarter spending of Commission money to 
support democratic forces in Belarus, and will possibly seek 
to re-visit the no-cabinet level meeting rule.  While 
Lithuania supports broadening the travel ban on Belarusian 
officials, it will continue to oppose generalized sanctions 
-- such as repealing GSP privileges -- that might appear to 
hurt the Belarusian people.  Lithuania continues its own 
modest assistance to Belarusian activist groups, and is still 
trying to create its proposed public-private European Fund 
for Democracy which could direct funds (presumably from the 
EU and elsewhere) to support civil society in Eastern Europe. 
 End Summary. 
Lithuanian priorities for Belarus 
¶2. (C) Lithuania's Belarus point man Renatas Juska gave us a 
run-down of Lithuania's policy objectives in its most 
troublesome neighbor, following the GOL's hosting of the 
Friends of Belarus meeting in Vilnius on September 30.  As 
the country with the closest EU capital to Minsk, Lithuania 
sees itself as a natural leader of Belarus policy in the 
European Union as well as an effective advocate of Western 
and European influence to the Belarusian people.  As a trade 
partner and major client of Lithuania's port of Klaipeda, the 
GOL considers Belarus more important to Lithuania 
economically than it is to any other EU member-state. 
Lithuania has tried to encourage a more active EU approach to 
Belarus that promotes democratic forces, but stops short of 
sanctions that could trigger retaliatory economic measures 
against Lithuania. 
¶3. (C) In a September 20 non-paper to EU capitals, Lithuania 
complained about the EU's "limited scope in the Eastern 
neighborhood," saying that "the U.S., 'new' Members of the 
EU, and Russia are much more active" than the EU in Belarus. 
The Finnish Presidency is "not really paying attention to 
Belarus," said Renatas Juska, an MFA official who is in 
charge of Lithuania's support for democratic forces in 
Belarus.  (A Finnish Embassy representative commented to us 
separately that the Lithuanians believe that the Finnish 
Presidency is not aggressive enough in support for the 
Belarusian opposition, but added that the Presidency must 
represent the EU consensus.  He also added that while 
Lithuania complains about lack of EU support for Belarus' 
opposition, it was willing to hold up consensus on 
withdrawing GSP privileges for "its own commercial interests" 
(see below)). Juska complained that lack of expertise about 
Belarus can lead the EU to pursue a crude policy of 
non-attention and failed democracy programs, followed by 
sanctions that do more harm than good. 
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Lithuania:  Schengen Visa fee will isolate Belarus 
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¶4. (C) For several months Lithuania has sought an exception 
to the imminent 60-euro visa fee that will follow Lithuania's 
entry in to the Schengen zone, now expected in 2008 (ref D). 
According to Juska, more Belarusians visit Lithuania than any 
other EU member state, and for those with limited resources 
Vilnius is probably the only EU capital they can afford to 
visit.  Lithuanian officials fear that that an increase in 
visa fees will effectively shut Lithuania's border to most 
Belarusians.  The harmonized Schengen fee of 60 euros is 
prohibitively expensive, they say, to Belarusians wanting to 
take the four-hour train to Vilnius to go shopping, attend 
courses at the European Humanities University (EHU), or 
participate in international conferences.  The GOL worries 
that "people-to-people contact" between Belarusians and other 
Europeans will fall dramatically, hurting efforts to foster 
democracy.  Since Lithuania reduced its visa fee from 20 to 
five euros, travel of Belarusians to Lithuania more than 
doubled, according to Belarus desk officer Marius Gudynas. 
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Revisiting the no-cabinet level engagement rule? 
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¶5. (C) Juska also mentioned the possibility of re-visiting 
the rule banning ministerial meetings.  Juska reported that 
Ambassadors from the UK and Germany raised the issue in the 
VILNIUS 00000946  002.2 OF 002 
Friends of Belarus meetings, and that their points largely 
tracked with Lithuanian views that countries -- especially 
those nearby Belarus -- could decide to meet with Ministers 
from Belarus on a case-by-case basis, taking into 
consideration the business to be done and the track record of 
that particular minister.  Lithuania has in the past made the 
case that engagement with cabinet level officials can also be 
a useful influence on the Lukashenko regime, and could 
perhaps encourage change within the regime (ref C).  (The 
previous government occasionally flouted the ban on 
ministerial meetings (ref x -- 05 Vilnius 1076)).  Lithuania 
continues sub-cabinet level engagement of Belarus, and has 
raised the level of engagement to seek action on particular 
topics, as for example during last June's talks at the Air 
Force Commander level about airspace violations (refs A and 
Lithuania opposes generalized sanctions 
¶6. (C) Lithuania, with Poland and Latvia, recently formed a 
blocking minority to resist sanctions in Brussels that would 
have withdrawn GSP preferences from Belarus.  (Note:  the 
decision was taken by the 133 Committee despite Lithuania's 
efforts to move discussion to the Political and Security 
Committee.)  According to Juska, Lithuania took its cue from 
opposition leaders who think that Belarus lacks the media 
resources necessary to adequately convey the message to the 
public that the sanctions were aimed at actions of the 
Lukashenko regime.  Juska told us, citing opposition leaders 
(with whom he has regular contact), that generalized 
sanctions will only strengthen the isolationist regime.  He 
said that Lithuania has sought to include more names on the 
EU's travel ban list, but has failed to reach consensus on 
the expanded list of names with its European counterparts. 
Assistance to opposition groups 
¶7. (C) Juska added that Lithuania views EU assistance to 
Belarus as wasteful and ineffective, claiming that the 
Commission grants amounts in sums that are too large and 
mismanages projects from Brussels.  Lithuania is pushing for 
the Commission partially to finance Lithuania's proposed 
European Fund for Democracy, which would in turn flexibly 
direct support to civil society and democratic forces in 
Belarus and elsewhere in Eastern Europe.  Lithuania's own 
assistance programs have focused on small grants to 
"trustworthy" political youth groups and activist 
organizations to run information campaigns.  Lithuania has 
also printed pro-democracy flyers and bulletins for 
distribution in Belarus, although he admitted it has been 
hard to measure the success of their distribution.  Juska 
added that the Belarusian KGB has infiltrated the 
better-known activist groups, and that foreign donors too 
often give money to contacts that undermine democratic 
efforts through subterfuge. 
¶8.  (C) It's probably no coincidence that the policies that 
Juska justifies in terms of democracy -- an exception for 
visa fees, no generalized sanctions, higher-level engagement 
-- also please those interests in Lithuania who seek to 
protect the economic relationship with Belarus.  We leave it 
to Embassy Minsk to weigh the consequences of revisiting the 
EU's restricted engagement rule or opposing generalized 
sanctions, but we should expect that Lithuania will continue 
its dualistic relationship with Belarus, supporting 
democratic forces while pursuing good working relations to 
protect Lithuania's important trade and border security